Queenstown, Doubtful Sound, Franz Josef Glacier, Abel Tasman National Park
Dates are customizable for private departures.
Welcome to the ultimate journey across Te Wahipounamu and a stunning 9-day itinerary, from Fiordland and Queenstown to the tropical tones of Abel Tasman National Park. Featuring scenic flights, glacial hikes, epic journeys, and nature’s escapism, this luxurious 9-day adventure will lead you across five national parks and the very best outdoor experiences on New Zealand’s South Island. Just bring a desire to explore, and you will leave with an absolute love for New Zealand’s nature.
Queenstown – Along the Lakeside
Touching down in Queenstown is a bucolic experience that will have you soaring over the fjords and gliding above a lake on the edge of the world. Your accommodation will be nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, and a local guide will greet you at the airport and transfer you to your accommodation. Queenstown and the South Island may promise adventure, but nature also provides a tranquil atmosphere that is perfect for escaping your everyday schedule. Today will be at your leisure, and you can have as much time as you need to settle in to your New Zealand experience.
Queenstown – Lord of the Rings Filming Locations
Today, you will venture into the wilderness. The South Island’s sublime landscapes will set the scene for your nine days in New Zealand. Today, you will be twisting along a rugged road to an icy river that cuts between sharp cliffs. A jetboat will lead you further on an exhilarating ride that features 360-degree turns and hair-raising moments beneath the cliffs. After lunch, you will travel deeper into this untrammeled land to locations that were used for filming Lord of the Rings. It is a 4WD tour that will have you bumping over rivers to Middle-earth and telling chapters from the trilogy.
Doubtful Sound – Overnight in Fiordland
Milford is the most famous fjord of Fiordland, but Doubtful Sound is prettier and more adventurous. You will need to travel by road and boat to an island, cross the island by 4WD vehicle, and then board a cruise vessel to reach Doubtful Sound. This journey will be an immersion of Fiordland’s towering mountains and rolling waterfalls. The best way to experience any of the fjords is to spend the night. First, you will cruise around the fjord to admire dolphins and seals. A small boat will further your impression of the fjord’s size. After the day-trippers leave, it will be just a single boat on an enormous fjord, and you can really bask in the wonders of this mostly undiscovered region.
Queenstown – Helicopter Flight and Glacier Landing
Perhaps the ultimate highlight of spending the night in Doubtful Sound is waking up. Mist consumes Fiordland on most mornings, and you may not be able to see more than 30 feet. Slowly, it will clear, mystically unveiling Doubtful Sound in its most pristine form. This morning, you can enjoy a kayak or boat excursion on the fjord with a focus on getting up-close to the different animals. Rather than drive back to Queenstown, you will return by helicopter, which will offer you a scenic flight above glaciers and fjords. Halfway back to Queenstown, the pilot will bring you down on a large alpine glacier, where you can disembark and feel the crunch of ice beneath your feet.
Franz Josef Glacier – Ultimate Overland Journey
Te Wahipounamu is a massive natural UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers most of the western half of New Zealand’s South Island. Spanning six national parks, it is an unbroken wilderness with very few people or settlements. The entire journey to Abel Tasman National Park will take about half a day. You can travel at your pace and stop where you want. Your guide can also offer suggestions for great places to get out and walk. By connecting national parks and rolling across the landscape, you can explore the best of the South Island landscapes in a single day before arriving in the town of Franz Josef Glacier.
Franz Josef Glacier – Hiking a Glacial Wonderland
Ice sculptures glisten a soft blue as they curl across the glacier. Entire tunnels have been carved by nature, and you can travel through them. Just reaching the glacier will require a helicopter flight. Once you reach the locale, you will need crampons and ice axes to fully explore. Walking on a glacier is one thing, but wait until you see where the glacier goes. From alpine origins, the ice cascades through a lush rainforest before surging all the way to a beach. The heli-hike will consume half a day, leaving the afternoon free to visit a small wildlife sanctuary.
Abel Tasman National Park – Journey to Te Wahipounamu
Today, you will continue your overland journey and gradually leave the mountains behind. You will travel along the coast and encounter strange rocks and hidden beaches where it is rare to see footprints. Abel Tasman National Park will be your final destination, and it is completely different from where you started. From Fiordland’s snow and ice, you will be presented with the tropical colors of a landscape that looks more like Hawaii than New Zealand. Hiking trails snake along the cliffs and your lodge will be tucked away from everything, commanding a majestic view over the national park.
Abel Tasman National Park – Kayaking and Hiking
This is a lovely part of New Zealand, and the contrast from the fjords makes it unmissable for nature lovers. Today, you will be guided through the best of the national park by a local guide. First, you will travel on foot across the cliffs and into the forest. Then, in kayaks, you will paddle to islets and follow the tide into tiny bays. Your adventure will continue in the afternoon when you will travel the length of the national park’s coastline on a private boat tour. You can enter small caves and find hidden swathes of nature, where turquoise water is overlooked by jagged fern-lined cliffs.
Nelson – Departure
It is an hour private transfer out of the park to Nelson, where you will board a flight to Christchurch or Auckland for your international flight home.
- Soar above Fiordland on a scenic helicopter flight and touch down on a glacier, where you can walk in an untouched and unseen wilderness
- Discover the laid-back charms of Queenstown, which is a magnificent town framed by mountains and lakes
- Explore Lord of the Rings filming locations and relive iconic scenes from the trilogy
- Spend a night on Doubtful Sound, which is a sublime fjord that will immerse you in the mysteries of the natural world
- Kayak and hike around the cliffs of Abel Tasman National Park amid tropical tones and turquoise waters
- Embrace your journey on a private overland drive across five national parks and the very best of Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Feel the wilderness with a day hike on Franz Josef Glacier, where stunning natural ice sculptures meet the rainforest
- Discover the thrills of jetboating in addition to searching for turtles and rays in tidal Abel Tasman pools
While New Zealand’s North Island is bucolic, the South Island is framed by some of the planet’s most dramatic landscapes. Snow-capped mountains soar more than 12,000 feet into the sky, mysterious fjords line the coastline, and rays flitter through tidal pools in the tropical waters. Few people actually live on South Island, and the experience is mostly about untouched nature as you discover the ultimate highlights of Te Wahipounamu, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to half a dozen national parks.
Handcrafted with private activities and transfers, this luxurious 9-day South Island tour will showcase the best of the island’s nature, from Queenstown to Abel Tasman National Park. You will be sleeping on fjords, hiking on glaciers, kayaking and hiking along the coast, and exploring landscapes that few others have even seen. Your first four nights will be spent in Queenstown and Fiordland. The town is an ideal location to serve as your base and to relax after your long flight. Here, Lord of the Rings filming locations and a jetboat ride will be just two of your experiences. From here, you will explore Doubtful Sound and spend the night in the mist and mystery before indulging in a scenic helicopter flight over Fiordland, which will allow you to land on a glacier.
From Queenstown to Abel Tasman is about a half-day of driving, but it is one of the world’s ultimate road trips with almost the entire road being inside national parks. The road is practically empty, and a private trip means that there will be dozens of places you can stop and explore on foot. Franz Josef Glacier will be your halfway point, and, here, you can hike on a glacier that falls through the rainforest to the beach. Then, in Abel Tasman National Park, you will have completed the transition from snowy scenes to tropical waters. Turquoise tones will take over, and you will be able to fully embrace another side to the South Island. This is the perfect standalone New Zealand trip for nature lovers and can be handcrafted further with experiences to include the North Island as well.
$2,245 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.
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